Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell in front of municipal hall in December.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell in front of municipal hall in December.

Atwell: Police incident ‘blown out of proportion’

Saanich mayor called 911 on Dec. 11 at private residence in Saanich; no charges pending

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell says an incident where he called police for assistance raises legitimate questions about how police should conduct investigations that involve police board members.

On Wednesday, Atwell broke his silence to clarify media reports that stated he was party to a police-involved dispute at a private Saanich residence in early December, just days after being sworn in as mayor.

“It really was a small incident that was blown out of proportion by a newspaper article because it made some suggestions that aren’t true,” Atwell said. “And how this leaked out, I don’t know.”

Atwell, who chairs the Saanich police board, was referring to an article published Tuesday in the Times Colonist that used unnamed sources to reference an incident at the home of an Atwell campaign supporter and her fiancé. Atwell confirmed he was at the home on Dec. 11, but said other facts of the story were wrong.

“The description of what happened there, which was I was caught with somebody’s fiancé late at night and the implication we were caught doing something inappropriate which then turned into a fight – that didn’t happen,” he said.

Atwell describes a much different scene at the residence, where he was invited in by both his friend and the woman’s partner around 8 p.m. An argument then ensued and Atwell tried to leave. Instead, he was pushed by the fiancé and felt unsafe, he said.

“At that point, I called 911 for everyone’s safety. I wasn’t the aggressor,” he said.

When Saanich police officers arrived, Atwell then identified himself as the mayor but said he didn’t request or receive any special treatment.

“Everything was above board. I didn’t make a 911 call because I thought it would be good for me, but I decided to make a safety choice,” he said.

Atwell said he chose not to pursue charges that evening. The campaign supporter and fiancé gave statements to police and have since chosen to “go back to their private lives,” Atwell said.

“This thing has raised more questions than it has answers. But the answer about what I was doing there and what happened is all very factual and simple,” he said. “A simple call for safety has opened up a whole can of worms about whether the governance structure of the police board is appropriate. I don’t have an answer to that question.”

Atwell said he still has a right to a private life even as mayor, and questioned comments about his lack of transparency and openness on the incident until now.

“What some people have done is they’ve taken open government, transparency and accountability of the organization and they’ve poured it into my private life,” Atwell said.

“It’s not about my job, it’s about my life as a private citizen that’s now fallen under their umbrella of openness and transparency. It’s very easy to say I should have come out earlier, but it’s my private life. I think I have a right to a private life, although clearly many people disagree.”

Atwell said it would be inappropriate to bring up the incident at a council meeting and said he’s now “eager” to get back to municipal business.

“I am chair of the police board, but hopefully I’ve got some rights as a private citizen where I’m able to call police like anybody else,” he said.

Saanich police confirmed the file has since been closed and that there are no charges pending in the incident.

“If someone calls us, it’s because they need our help as a citizen,” said Saanich police Sgt. Steve Eassie, who stressed he was speaking in general terms. “That call is really not a public interest story unless there’s a specific reason to release that information for public safety or other purposes. The circumstances of the file will dictate whether there’s an independent review on any of our calls.”

In cases involving public officials, police can request a third party review of the file, but no review has been requested in a case involving Atwell.

editor@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read